These are some of the things you need to know about Spain if you are a foreign student:
- Most stores in Madrid (except large department stores) close from 2:00 pm to 5:00 pm and all stores are closed on Sundays, except the first Sunday of every month.
- Banks are open Monday to Friday from 9:00 am to 2:00 pm and on Saturdays (October through April) from 9:00 am to 1:30 pm.
- Breakfast is a small meal in Spain. Most people will drink a cup of (strong) coffee and eat a piece of toast or some cookies. Lunch is the main meal and it is served around 2:30 pm. Dinner is much lighter than lunch and is served between 9:00 and 10:00 pm.
- Wait to be invited into a Spanish kitchen and never just walk in and help yourself to food unless that policy has been established by your family.
- When you are introduced to someone, you must either shake hands (men to men) or kiss both cheeks (men to women, or women to women). Kissing cheeks takes place among friends, but not in a professional environment. (At work everybody shakes hands.) It is a good idea to wait until the other party acts.
- Electricity and telephones are very expensive in Spain. Lights must be turned off while not being used. Hot water is always scarce so do not expect to take long showers. Heating is kept to a minimum.
- In a restaurant, the waiter will not bring the bill until you ask him to. Tipping is normally 5% or less depending on the type of restaurant. Since tipping is not as important in Spain as in the United States, service isn’t usually as fast.
- Tipping in taxis is about 0-5%.
- Stay away from trouble. Remember it is illegal for foreigners in Spain to participate in any type of public demonstration. You could be arrested and expelled from the country.
- Spain suffers from a high rate of traffic accidents. Never get into a car with someone who has been drinking or taking drugs. Never get into a car with someone you do not know. Also, be very careful when crossing the street. A red light does not always mean a car will stop. Do not watch only traffic lights; watch the cars too.
SAFETYFor its size, Madrid is not a dangerous city, but safety measures must be observed to guarantee your own safety.
- Ladies: never walk alone at night. Make arrangements for someone to accompany you to your doorstep.
- There are many pickpockets in the metro, buses, and on the streets. Make sure your wallet is somewhere difficult to reach. If you are carrying a backpack or a purse, make sure zippers are closed. Never carry large amounts of money with you.